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59. National Intelligence Estimate1

NIE 30–73

POSSIBLE EGYPTIAN-ISRAELI HOSTILITIES: DETERMINANTS AND IMPLICATIONS

Précis

Believing that perpetuation of the present Middle Eastern situation is intolerable for himself and for Egypt, Sadat is pressing ahead with his campaign of threats in the hope of inspiring US pressure on Israel. This could, over time, get out of control. But substantial Egyptian-Israel hostilities appear unlikely in the next few weeks.2

The danger probably will rise if Middle East debates in the UN Security Council (early June) and the NixonBrezhnev summit (late June) pass without any results Sadat considers useful. The US and the USSR have some, but limited, leverage in the situation.

—Among factors tending to precipitate hostilities:

Continuing diplomatic stalemate, combined with Egyptian conviction that hostilities would stimulate more active US and Soviet involvement in the settlement process

Egyptian calculation that hostilities would trigger anti-US action by the Saudis and other oil producers—leading to US pressures on Israel

Provocative actions by Egypt or other Arab parties and preemption or retaliation by Israel

—Among those tending to discourage hostilities:

Diplomatic movement Sadat could convincingly cite as evidence of progress toward regaining territory

A US move to distance itself diplomatically from Israel

Clear and continuing warnings from the USSR to its Arab clients

Arab-Israeli hostilities taking place in 1973 would not involve wide-ranging ground warfare on the Egyptian front, as in 1967, or a long and continuing war of attrition, as in 1969–1970. There might be [Page 181]small, brief Egyptian commando raids or Egyptian artillery barrages—and then massive Israeli retaliation. And large-scale Israeli pre-emption would occur if Egypt appeared on the verge of an air strike against civilian targets in Israel.

Substantial hostilities which left Egyptian forces shattered by Israeli pre-emption or retaliation could have major consequences.

US interests and the US presence throughout the Arab world would be subject to attack.

—The Egyptian Government probably would move against all US interests in Egypt.

—Some or all Arab oil producers probably would move to embargo oil shipments to the US and to hurt US oil companies in other ways.

—Most Arab countries commonly identified as close friends of the US would be under great pressure to strike out at the US—by breaking diplomatic relations, expelling military contingents, or denying the use of air space and commercial or military facilities. Not all these things would occur, but some would.

—The USSR would preserve its ties with Egypt, probably offering carefully measured amounts of replacement equipment in exchange for renewed access to military facilities and a greater role in Egyptian policy.

—Most major industrial nations would disassociate themselves as publicly as possible from US policy in the Middle East. Moreover, Europeans and Japanese probably would be spurred to seek oil under new arrangements offering a minimal role for US companies,

—The already slim prospect of a negotiated settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict would be eliminated—probably for years to come.

[Omitted here is the body of the estimate.]

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H–Files), Box H–91, Meeting Files, WSAG Meetings, 1973. Secret; No Foreign Dissem.
  2. A paper prepared by the National Security Council staff, probably in early May, came to similar conclusions. Entitled “Indications of Arab Intentions To Initiate Hostilities,” the paper posited that the Egyptian and Arab military moves suggested a “pattern of action that could be preparation for hostilities against Israel, but they are also part of an effort to arouse international concern and put psychological pressures on Israel and the US.” (Ibid., Kissinger Office Files, Box 135, Rabin/Kissinger (Dinitz) 1973, Jan–July (2 of 3))